Cox/Henderson propose their FY 2022 budget

Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson unveiled their FY 2022 budget priorities, featuring major investments in education, infrastructure, open space and a tax decrease. 

The $21.7 billion budget includes $250 million to assist the state’s public health partners, households, businesses and schools affected by the coronavirus; $125 million for an upskilling initiative focused on helping those out of work or needing a better job; $350 million to double-track FrontRunner; $50 million to improve transportation in the Wasatch canyons; $125 million for open space and trails; $125 million for rural infrastructure including expanding broadband access; and $112 million for educator bonuses. The proposal also includes an $80 million tax cut. 

As a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, lawmakers cut back and tightened spending last summer. That prudence has resulted in substantial available revenue, with the state projecting $728 million in ongoing additional education/general fund revenue and $1.268 billion in one-time revenue available. This creates a unique opportunity to make strategic investments that will improve the quality of life for generations of Utahns.

“Conquering COVID is our number one priority at present, but we must also look toward a bright horizon,” Gov. Cox said. “These long-term investments in our children and our infrastructure will help us now and long into the future. We look forward to working with the Legislature as we find the best ways to serve Utahns and this budget is the start.” 

Rural office opens 

The budget announcement was the first official act held in the governor’s new rural office on the campus of Southern Utah University, fulfilling a campaign promise to highlight the interests of Utahns who live in rural areas. 

In a first for an administration, the governor appointed a new senior advisor for rural affairs last month, Stephen Lisonbee, who will concurrently serve as Assistant Vice President for the Office of Regional Services for SUU. The rural office in Cedar City will be used to host meetings with elected officials and convene regional events. 

“This working office is an important step in heightening the profile of rural Utah,” Gov. Cox said. “We thank SUU for supporting this one-of-a-kind partnership and we look forward to expanding opportunities for all Utahns through this office.”

Executive orders issued

In addition to releasing the FY 2022 budget proposal, Gov. Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson signed two executive orders. 

Executive Order 2021-3 requires all state agencies to review all jobs within their agencies with the goal of expanding opportunities for working remotely. During the pandemic, 40% of state employees worked outside of the office, which has resulted in savings to the taxpayer and higher employee satisfaction. These agency reviews must be completed by July 1, 2021.

“Teleworking helps prevent air pollution and improves the quality of life for many state employees,” Gov. Cox said. “Since technology makes working from home more accessible than ever, we should allow working remotely whenever possible.” 

In a related action, Executive Order 2021-4 requires all state agencies to determine which positions and offices could be relocated to rural areas and the infrastructure that would be required to make that a reality. The order also charges agencies to develop educational opportunities for rural residents and to work with the private sector to encourage rural employment opportunities.